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News Bulletin : ADA News Bulletin August 2010
36 AUGUST 2010 The Australian Dental Association's (ADA) Dental Health Week theme for 2010 was 'Tooth erosion'. During Dental Health Week, the ADA raised awareness of the causes and symptoms of this 'silent epidemic'. Tooth erosion is the loss of tooth structure due to exposure to acids and can affect people of all ages. Enamel, which is the hardest material in the body, is the outside covering on teeth that protects the dentine (the next layer of the tooth), and the pulp which is made up of connective tissue, nerves and blood vessels in the hollow centre of the tooth. Erosion is found initially in the enamel and, if unchecked, may proceed to the underlying dentine. The impact of tooth erosion is irreversible and can lead to a lifetime of treatment or discomfort. Therefore, preventing or at least minimizing the impact of tooth erosion is paramount from an early age. CAUSES OF EROSION The most common cause of erosion is by acidic foods and drinks. In general, foods and drinks with a pH below 5.0--5.7 have been known to trigger dental erosion. Soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit juices and cordials have high acid levels and play a major role in tooth erosion. The amount and frequency of consumption of these drinks should be limited. Dry mouth, or reduced saliva flow is also a common contributor to tooth erosion. Saliva flow helps to neutralise acids in the mouth and rinse them away. Some medications can contribute to dry mouth. Older people are especially at risk as they produce less saliva. PREVENTING OR MINIMIZING TOOTH EROSION The ADA recommends the following guidelines if consuming acidic drinks: • Avoid holding or 'swishing' drinks in the mouth as this increases acid exposure to teeth; • Use a straw as much as possible to minimize the acid exposure to teeth; • If you do drink an acidic and/or sugary beverage, drink it chilled -- cooler temperatures have been shown to be less likely to cause tooth erosion; • After drinking acidic and/or sugary beverages, don't brush your teeth straight away -- brushing can remove the softened tooth layer (resulting from the acid exposure), increasing the amount of tooth loss. Wait one hour before brushing teeth; • Instead of brushing, rinse with water -- this will help remove any acid remaining in the mouth; • Chewing sugar free gum can stimulate saliva flow and rinse acids away. As part of Dental Health Week 2010, the ADA has developed a range of fact sheets to educate Australians of all ages about how to protect themselves against dental erosion. These are available on the ADA's Dental Health Week website www. dentalhealthweek.com.au. Source: National Dental Update, July 2010. The ADA National Dental Update is a monthly publication distributed to politicians and opinion leaders. Other issues can be viewed at www.ada.org.au national dental update Tooth EROSION
ADA News Bulletin September 2010